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Las Vegas Expert Picks: NFL Conference Championship Sunday

Vegas veteran Benjamin Eckstein, author of America’s Line, brings three decades of experience to make weekly picks in his “Ecks & Bacon” column.

LAS VEGAS — Just like last week, we’re gonna skate onto the NHL ice tonight, and just like last week, we’re gonna grab the Avalanche. Obviously, Colorado is the better team in this matchup against the Ducks, and absolutely LOVE the Avs coming in off a loss.

Last night, they came up on the short end of a 4-2 score against the Kings in Los Angeles. When we threw our chips down last week at the Avalanche, they were coming off a 4-1 loss to the Blues. The next game was an 8-0 BLOWOUT against St. Louis. Not expecting eight goals from the Avs, but DO expect an easy W.

NFC Championship Pick

Start out up on the almost frozen tundra, and grab the Packers -3 points over the Bucs

Here are your vital spread stats, just in case you have not had the time. Looking at the Packers, they are 14-3 straight up and 11-6 against the spread. They are 6-3 ATS at home and 9-5 as a favorite. They went OVER 10 times and UNDER seven (5-4 to the OVER at home).

The Bucs are 13-5 straight up and 10-8 against the spread. They are 5-5 ATS on the road and 3-1 as an underdog. They went OVER 10 times and UNDER eight (6-4 to the OVER away). 

As if Tom Brady needed MORE motivation. TB12 has been carrying a GIGANTIC chip on his shoulder ever since being picked in the sixth round of the 2000 draft with the 199th selection. Twenty-one years later, with SIX Super Bowl rings, the CHIP has served him well.

There were six QBs selected ahead of him. Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger and Spergon Wynn. OK, Tom, you PROVED your point. We remember NONE of them!

Now, Bill Belichick’s girlfriend, Linda Holliday, comes out and says, “Tom didn’t score (Sunday) night … not once! Defense won that game. Were you even watching.” So now Brady has another arrow in his quiver, another chip on his shoulder, to silence Double B’s lady.

Speaking of silencing someone, the Bucs did that to Aaron Rodgers earlier in the season at Tampa, stomping the Packers 38-10. It was absolutely Aaron’s WORST game of the season. He was only 16 of 35 for 160 yards with no TDs and two INTs. Since that game back in October, Mr. Discount Double Check has been virtually unstoppable.

Kudos to the Bucs defense for looking tremendous last week against the Saints, but Drew Brees couldn’t throw the ball more than 20 yards. His average pass play was 3.9 yards. That’s THREE-POINT-NINE YARDS PER PASS! YEAH, I’m YELLING!

You think that Tampa’s gonna be able to load up the D on Rodgers, who can throw it 50 yards with a casual flick of his wrist? UH UH! You think that the Cheeseheads are gonna turn the ball over FOUR times? UH UH!

Everyone expects TB12 to guide his Bucs into the Super Bowl, which will be played on Tampa’s home field, but not this keyboard. We’re all about the Cheese, and there’s just one thing left to say. This IS my BEST BET, BAABBBEEE!!! 

AFC Championship Pick

Out to Kansas City for the nightcap, and we’re thinking about the Chiefs -3 points over the Bills.

Looking at the Chiefs stats, they are 15-2 straight up and 6-10-1 against the spread. They are 3-6 ATS at home and 5-9-1 as a favorite. They went OVER eight times and UNDER eight times with one PUSH (5-4 to the UNDER at home).

Checking in on the Bills, they are 15-3 straight up and 12-6 against the spread. They are 5-3 ATS on the road and 4-1 as an underdog. They went OVER 12 times and UNDER five with one PUSH (6-1-1 to the OVER on the road).

Totally understand that everyone wants to throw down on this game, and everyone has an opinion, but unless you are on the Kaycee staff, or one of his doctors, you have NO IDEA what the magical Patrick Mahomes will do Sunday. And even if you are part of the medical staff, or one of his doctors, you STILL have NO IDEA.

So please, PLZ, do NOT listen to anyone who tells you they are making this their Game of the Year, their Lock of the Century, their 1,000-star play. Hang up, throw the email into the trash and SAVE your money!

The line opened Kaycee -5 and probably woulda jumped to at least -6 if Mahomes was 100 percent and they had 76,416 crazed fans inside Arrowhead Stadium. Well, he isn’t and they’ll only have 16,000 and change in the seats.

Kansas City beat the Bills 26-17 up in Buffalo back in October, covering the -5.5 point spread. Patrick was 21 of 26 for 225 yards with two TDs and ZERO INTs. Josh Allen had a lousy day, completing only 14 of 27 for 122 yards with two TDs and one INT.

The difference-maker in that game was Kaycee rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who rumbled for 161 yards. But he did NOT play last week and is listed as questionable for this game with a bum ankle. If he does manage to play, and the Chiefs get back WR Sammy Watkins as well, that’s trouble for the Buffs.

So, basically, it all boils down to the Mahomes noggin. If he is cleared, and is clear-headed, then the Chiefs are obviously my pick. But – and it’s a big BUT – what if he gets knocked down and his head bounces off the Latitude 36 Bermudagrass? That would be a YUGE problem, and Chad Henne is certainly NOT the answer.

Gonna suggest a very light play to the Chiefs, if Mahomes starts, but PLZ ask you to follow along with me as I LIVE tweet the game, @vegasvigorish, and throw out some delicious in-play wagers.

Benjamin Eckstein is a nationally syndicated sportswriter/oddsmaker. His column, America’s Line, with the Ecks & Bacon appetizer, has run in the New York Daily News and over 100 other papers since 1988. You can follow him online at www.americasline.com. He is beloved by most, when he picks winners, and detested by others, when he picks the occasional loser. If you wanna piece of Eck, hit his email...ben@americasline.com.